Service Desk Professionals

April 15th, 2014 | Posted by Don Boylan in Favorite | Service Desk

Service Desk ProWhich of the following two descriptions for Service Desk employees is the most accurate?

 Service Desk employees are:

  • The first line of support for IT.
  • Entry level IT staff.
  • Young up-and-comers looking to get their start in IT.
  • Incapable of solving complex technological issues.
  • The lowest cost IT employees.

— Or —

 Service Desk employees are:

  • The first line of support for IT.
  • Seasoned professionals who have spent at least 10 years working in IT.
  • Employees who have found their calling in IT through supporting users (both technically and emotionally) who are experiencing high stress situations.
  • Capable of solving 90% of all issues (technological or otherwise).
  • Some of the most expensive IT employees.

If you answered that the first list was the most accurate, then you have never met a Service Desk Professional.

Service Desk Professionals are the unsung heroes of our modern corporate life. They aren’t the System Engineers who spent 160 hours to implement SharePoint 2013 on a cluster of HP blades, or the Mail Administrator who just migrated 10,000 user accounts from a server whose support was ending in 3 days.

They are the Service Desk Professionals who show up to work, and for 8 solid hours every day, answer the phone when it rings and take on whatever users throw their way. They don’t roll in at 9:30 or decide to leave a half hour early. They know that their job is to be there when the phone rings. If the advertised Service Desk hours are 6:00am-8:00pm, and they work the early shift, they staff into their phone at 5:59. If they work the late shift and get a call at 7:55 that holds them at the office until 9:30, so be it.

These are the true cowboys of the IT world. They are the hired guns who can walk into an enterprise, ask for an overview of the ticketing system/organizational structure/knowledge base, and then start working the phone. They may not know the answer to every question for the first few weeks, but the users will never know. Through clever conversational techniques (and the ability to mute the line and get an answer from a co-worker), the user will think that the tech has been working at the company’s desk their entire life.

Service Desk Professionals can take an IT shop that is pressed against the ropes by user anger and frustration, and turn it around in to the most trusted area of the entire organization.

How do I know this? Because I was one.

I have long since left that life behind, but when I was doing it, I was damn good. I was a Service Desk Professional, and I wasn’t alone. Indeed, my longest stint at a Service Desk was 12 years in a single company. When I left, I was still 5th in length of tenure. Two of techs who had longer tenures than me were in the company’s 25 year club. Yes, that’s right, 25 years working as the front line support for the same company.

We had a total of 16 people working the desk, and none of us had less than 5 years of experience as IT Service Desk technicians. Our customer approval rating was in the high 90s. Our first call resolution stats were in the low 90s. Our average talk time was less than 4 minutes. If you are not amazed at a 90% first call resolve with 95% approval at < 4 min/call, then you are not a Service Desk Professional.

So why doesn’t every company staff their Service Desk with Service Desk Professionals and give users the experience they desire? Because it is very expensive. If you look at the cost of a top tier Service Desk Professional (10+ years of experience), it is quite comparable to any Systems, Database, or Network technician.

Of course we were outsourced. The first time the company didn’t hit Wall Streets’ earnings expectations, the executives started looking for where they could cut costs and we were an obvious choice. When we found out that the writing was on the wall, I asked the executives if they had given any considerations around the soft numbers when the decision was being made. Their response was “No, it was all about the hard numbers”. Oh well, c’est la vie. I can tell you that the users in the company were not happy with the outcome (as a matter of fact, even though it’s been over 10 years, they still aren’t happy).

Very few companies have the resources to staff a large Service Desk with nothing but Pros.  Indeed, the pressure to reduce the cost of IT by pushing resolution to the first point of contact, and staffing the first point of contact with entry level employees, is one of the basic tenets of a tiered support structure. My recommendation, as I’ve stated in a previous post, is to sprinkle in seasoned IT professionals along with entry level staff into the Service Desk. I have found that a 1:4 to 1:6 ratio of professionals to entry level staffing is about right.

Good luck in finding Service Desk Professionals for your organization, and when you do, make sure you give them:

  • A ticketing system that is efficient and intuitive
  • The tools they need to fix the users’ problems (instant messaging, screen sharing, remote control, accurate and up-to-date inventories)
  • The information they need so that they don’t sound like idiots (roles/responsibilities/organizational charts, software documentation, accurate and up-to-date knowledge base)
  • An ergonomic workspace (comfortable chairs, headsets, ergo keyboards/mice)

And lastly, pay them what they are worth, because like any good cowboy, they can always just ride off into the sunset.

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